Thursday, January 18, 2018

De Trinitate Preface (Book II) by Augustine of Hippo

When men seek to know God, and bend their minds according to the capacity of human weakness to the understanding of the Trinity; learning, as they must, by experience, the wearisome difficulties of the task, whether from the sight itself of the mind striving to gaze upon light unapproachable, or, indeed, from the manifold and various modes of speech employed in the sacred writings (wherein, as it seems to me, the mind is nothing else but roughly exercised, in order that it may find sweetness when glorified by the grace of Christ);— such men, I say, when they have dispelled every ambiguity, and arrived at something certain, ought of all others most easily to make allowance for those who err in the investigation of so deep a secret. But there are two things most hard to bear with, in the case of those who are in error: hasty assumption before the truth is made plain; and, when it has been made plain, defense of the falsehood thus hastily assumed. From which two faults, inimical as they are to the finding out of the truth, and to the handling of the divine and sacred books, should God, as I pray and hope, defend and protect me with the shield of His good will, and with the grace of His mercy, I will not be slow to search out the substance of God, whether through His Scripture or through the creature.

Source: Translated by Arthur West Haddan. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

Picture Source: Thanks to

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Does the NIV Mistranslate Verses? Genesis 4:1 As a Test Case

A friend recently posted a long entry about the NIV's proclivity for mistranslation. Far be it from me to defend the NIV, but I like exploring translation issues and being fair to all parties involved. Therefore, I take Gen. 4:1 as a test case and this is one verse some insist is mistranslated in the NIV.

New International Version
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man."

New Living Translation
Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, "With the LORD's help, I have produced a man!"

English Standard Version
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.”

New American Standard Bible
Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, "I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD."

King James Bible
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Adam was intimate with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, "I have had a male child with the LORD's help."

New World Translation 2013
Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant.a When she gave birth to Cain,b she said: “I have produced* a male child with the help of Jehovah.”

It has been contended that adding "help" as NIV does is unwarranted because that adds to what the Hebrew text actually states. Compare YLT for example. However, is the addition of this word a deliberate mistranslation? Not in my estimation because part of translation involves making things clear for one's receptor audience: translating is going from the source language to the receptor language. Producing a stilted "literal" translation may actually be misleading. Note how many translations above use the word "help." The fact is that "help" is an understood/implicit element of the utterance.

Cambridge Bible offers this explanation for why "help" might be used:

I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord] Literally, “I acquired (or, have acquired) man, even Jahveh.” Eve’s four words in the Hebrew (ḳânîthi îsh eth-Yahveh) are as obscure as any oracle.

(i) The difficulty was felt at a very early time, and is reflected in the versions LXX διὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, Lat. per Deum, in which, as R.V., the particle êth is rendered as a preposition in the sense of “in conjunction with,” and so “with the help of,” “by the means of.”

König, who holds an eminent position both as a commentator and as a Hebrew grammarian and lexicographer, has recently strongly defended the rendering of êth as a preposition meaning “with,” in the sense here given by the English version “with the help of” (see Z.A.T.W. 1912, Pt i, pp. 22 ff.). The words will then express the thanksgiving of Eve on her safe deliverance of a child. It is a pledge of Divine favour. Child-birth has been “with the help of the Lord.”

(ii) The Targum of Onkelos reads mê-êth = “from” (instead of êth = “with”), and so gets rid of the difficulty: “I have gotten a man from Jehovah,” i.e. as a gift from the Lord. But this is so easy an alteration that it looks like a correction, and can scarcely be regarded as the original text. Praestat lectio difficilior.

From NET Bible:

tn Heb “with the Lord.” The particle אֶת־ (’et) is not the accusative/object sign, but the preposition “with” as the ancient versions attest. Some take the preposition in the sense of “with the help of” (see BDB 85 s.v. אֵת; cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV), while others prefer “along with” in the sense of “like, equally with, in common with” (see Lev 26:39; Isa 45:9; Jer 23:28). Either works well in this context; the latter is reflected in the present translation. Some understand אֶת־ as the accusative/object sign and translate, “I have acquired a man – the Lord.” They suggest that the woman thought (mistakenly) that she had given birth to the incarnate Lord, the Messiah who would bruise the Serpent’s head. This fanciful suggestion is based on a questionable allegorical interpretation of Gen 3:15 (see the note there on the word “heel”).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Followup on Luke 1:75; Ephesians 4:24

I've had a chance to research the issue of the word order for Luke 1:75 and Ephesians 4:24:

Ellicott's Commentary: In holiness and righteousness.—The same combination is found, though in an inverted order, in Ephesians 4:24. “Holiness” has special reference to man’s relations to God; “justice” to those which connect him with his fellow men; but, like all such words, they more or less overlap.

Expositor's GT: Luke 1:75. ὁσιότητι: the Godward, religious aspect of conduct (Ephesians 4:24).—δικαιοσύνῃ: the manward, ethical aspect.

Cambridge Bible: 75. In holiness] towards God,

and righteousness] towards men. We have the same words contrasted in 1 Thessalonians 2:10, “how holily and righteously;” Ephesians 4:24, “in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ὅσιος, ‘holy,’ is the Hebrew Châsîd, whence the ‘Chasidîm’ (Pharisees); and δίκαιος the Hebrew Tsaddik, whence ‘Sadducees.’

Bengel's Gnomon: Luke 1:75. Ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ, in holiness and righteousness) The same combination of words occurs, Ephesians 4:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:10. Righteousness expresses conformity to the law: holiness, conformity to nature.—πάσας) on every day [all the several days]: Hebrews 2:15.

Vincent's WS: Hence ὁσιότης is concerned primarily with the eternal laws of God. It is "the divine consecration and inner truth of righteousness" (Meyer). Throughout the New Testament its look is godward. In no case is it used of moral excellence as related to men, though it is to be carefully noted that δικαιοσύνη, righteousness, is not restricted to rightness toward men. Compare Ephesians 4:24; true holiness; literally, holiness of the truth.

Christmas and Sun Worship

Looking back at Grecian philosophical and mythological history, we find that the Presocratic philosophers were keenly interested in finding which substance constitutes the primordial cosmic substrate. Thales posited water as the ARXH of the universe, while Pythagoras asserted it was numbers; on the other hand, Heraclitus felt that fire was the primeval substance that was the ever-changing and governing force of the cosmos. "Everything is in a state of flux," Heraclitus is often quoted as stating. This "flux" consisted of fire and the "strife of opposites." In this way, Heraclitus accounted for all of the diversity manifest in nature. Certain scholars have called Heraclitus a "fire priest," indicating that he worshiped or at least reverenced the sun. While not every classicist will agree, I think there is some merit to this view and there might be evidence that the Presocratics were also prototypical theologians who were endeavoring to formulate a primitive doctrine of God (as they understood him). Now the significant point to note is that Heraclitus and other early thinkers may have participated in a rudimentary form of sun worship: this point is also evidenced by the myths written about Apollo, Helios, and Hyperion.

One excellent source that I have found for dealing with the history of Greek religion is Gilbert Murray's Five Stages of Greek Religion. On p. 134 of this invaluable reference work, Murray writes that worship of the Sun is implicit, "if not explicit," in a number of ancient Greek documents. It is "idealized by Plato in the Republic, where the Sun is the author of all good light and life in the material world, as the Idea of the Good is in the ideal world. This worship came gradually into contact with the traditional and definite Sun-worship of Persia. The final combination took place curiously late. It was the Roman conquests of Cilicia, Cappadocia, Commagene, and Armenia that gave the decisive moment. To men who had wearied of the myths of the poets, who could draw no more inspiration from their Apollo and Hyperion, but still had the habits and the craving left by their old Gods, a fresh breath of reality came with the entrance of HLIOS ANIKHTOS MIQRAS, 'Mithras, the Unconquered Sun.' But long before the triumph of Mithraism as the military religion of the Roman Frontier, Greek literature is permeated with a kind of intense language about the Sun, which seems derived from Plato"(Murray 134).

Will Durant also provides this information: "In 354 [This date may be off. Others have calculated the time at circa 332 C.E.] some Western churches, including those of Rome, commemorated the birth of Christ on December 25; this was then erroneously calculated as the winter solstice, on which the days begin to lengthen; it was already the central festival of Mithraism, the NATALIS INVICTI SOLIS, or birthday of the unconquered sun" (Caesar and Christ 558).

So I would trace the potential development of Christmas from Greece through Persia to Rome.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Comparison Between Luke 1:75 and Ephesians 4:24

Something I noticed last night that others might have seen before, but it was interesting to me:

Luke 1:75: ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ

Ephesians 4:24: ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας.

The genitive phrase is different in Ephesians, which Luke does not add, but notice the order of ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ in the two writers.

1 Timothy 2:5 (KJV)

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5, KJV).

εἷς γὰρ Θεός, εἷς καὶ μεσίτης Θεοῦ καὶ ἄνθρωπων ἄνθρωπος Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς (Scrivener's Textus Receptus 1894)

No article with ἄνθρωπος, yet KJV renders the word with a definite semantic for some reason.

I've since found out there's a question about ἄνθρωπος being the subject or predicate of the construction. So the choice to translate with "the man" seems to be grammatical and not for other reasons. The common strategy is to render the verse in this way: "a human" (ISV), "himself man" (ERV, Weymouth) or "himself human" (NET Bible). However, if ἄνθρωπος is not the subject, then the noun should not be rendered "the man."

Here is the explanation given by The Pulpit Commentary:

Even supposing that the exact construction of the sentence requires "Christ Jesus" to be taken as the subject and "man" as the predicate, the English way of expressing that sense is to say, "the man Christ Jesus." But it is very far from certain that ἄνθρωπος, standing as it does in opposition to Θεός, is not the subject, and must not therefore be rendered "the man."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

John 3:3-5, Baptism and a Question Regarding Titus 3:5

Written 6/25/200; edited 1/11/2018.

Jesus and his disciples practiced baptism, and baptism appears to be what is described by ὕδατος in John 3:5. But John adds πνεύματος in 3:5 and the preposition ἐξ that evidently controls both substantives (ἐξ ὕδατος KAI πνεύματος) which are apparently linked with the "birthing" process--an indication that spiritual rebirth or being born "from above," while it does involve water baptism is possibly not exhausted by water baptism (John 3:5 may indeed be a candidate for hendiadys or at the very least, water and spirit are intimately connected although I do not think the KAI in 3:5 is necessarily epexegetical). Now I am not saying that this is what every advocate of the baptism approach to John 3:3-5 is positing: just wanted to show where I stand on this issue.

Another question I have concerns Titus 3:5. In times of Christian antiquity, this verse was often construed as a proof for the necessity and nature of baptism. But I've never quite been able to understand how Titus 3:5 has anything to do with water immersion. What indicators from the NT itself support this interpretation?

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

John 3:3 and Spiritual Rebirth

Greek for John 3:3: ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

One verb that John uses in 3:3 is γεννηθῇ (aorist subjunctive passive) coupled with the adverb ἄνωθεν (evidently meaning "born from above" or "born again"). But when I research γεννάω alone, I have yet to find a place in Scripture where that verb itself means "rebirth" or "regeneration." Of course, one could argue that γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν possibly conveys the sense of "regeneration" and maybe this much is true. In fact, Peter's words at 1 Peter 1:3, 23 evidently deal with the same process that John does in his Gospel. And in his first Epistle, Peter does refer to a "new birth" or new begettal.

So if one wants to call spiritual rebirth "regeneration," maybe there's nothing wrong with using that kind of terminology to describe the marvelous divine process delineated in John 3:3ff. But it could be more appropriate to call divine justification, "regeneration." Compare Titus 3:5-6.

Monday, January 08, 2018

More Notes on Gnosticism: The Fathers and the Demise of Gnosis

Gnosticism influenced the dualistic philosophy of Docetism. See Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of an Ancient Religion, trans. Robert M. Wilson (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1983), 372. Countering Docetism, Irenaeus writes about Christ: "Fasting forty days, like Moses and Elias, He afterwards hungered, first, in order that we may perceive that He was a real and substantial man -- for it belongs to a man to suffer hunger when fasting; and secondly, that His opponent might have an opportunity of attacking Him" (Adv Haer 5.21.2).

Irenaeus likewise castigates the numerological tendencies of the Gnostics, observing: "Moreover, they possess no proof of their system, which has but recently been invented by them, sometimes resting upon certain numbers, sometimes on syllables, and sometimes, again, on names; and there are occasions, too, when, by means of those letters which are contained in letters, by parables not properly interpreted, or by certain [baseless] conjectures, they strive to establish that fabulous account which they have devised” (Ibid. 2.28.8).

However one defines the term "Christianity," una voce, believers of all stripes can no doubt agree with what Paul Tillich points out regarding Gnosticism: "If Christian theology had succumbed to this [Gnostic] temptation, the particular character of Christianity would have been lost. Its unique basis in the person of Jesus would have become meaningless." See Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, 36. But orthodox theologians of the church offered a successful riposte to the Gnostic challenge. These ecclesiastical polemicists "fought against gnosticism [sic] and expelled it from the church." (Ibid. 37.) In this way, the regula fidei, which the apostles supposedly transmitted to their successors, was purportedly saved.

Deceptive Power of Riches/Deceptive Power of Sin?

Deceptive power of riches-Matthew 13:22: ὁ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας σπαρείς, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τὸν λόγον ἀκούων καὶ ἡ μέριμνα τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἡ ἀπάτη τοῦ πλούτου συνπνίγει τὸν λόγον, καὶ ἄκαρπος γίνεται.

Study Bible NWT-Or "the seductiveness (deceptive pleasure) of being wealthy."

Compare Mark 4:19

deceptive power of sin See Hebrews 3:12-13.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Some Recommended Works for the Study of Gnosticism

Brown, H. O. J. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998

Burgess, S. M. The Holy Spirit: Ancient Christian Traditions. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1984.

Frend, W. H. C. The Rise of Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.

Grant, R. M. Gnosticism and Christianity. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

Green, Henry A. The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985.

Jonas, H. The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity. Boston: Bacon Press, 1963.

Pagels, E. Gnostic Gospels. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979.

Riemer, R. Gnosis and Faith in Early Christianity. London: SCM Press, 1999

Rudolph, K. Gnosis: The Nature and History of an Ancient Religion. Translated by Robert M. Wilson. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1983.

The work which was originally a dissertation produced in 1985 by Henry A. Green entitled The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism is quite helpful and approaches the socio-religious phenomenon of Gnosticism from a socio-economic point of view. Green is quite methodological and thorough in his book, offering insights that will probably not be found elsewhere. His study, as he writes, "should be regarded as a pilot study, an attempt to apply social-scientific paradigms to the examination of ancient religions, and specifically Gnosticism" (p. 18).

You may also remember me saying that ancient Gnostics usually were libertines or ascetics. Some went for the gusto while others abstained from certain foods, drink and they lived celibate lives. For these thinkers, the world of matter was thought to be evil, alienated from God, and produced by intermediate aeons.

Revelation 17:6-8 and Astonishment/Wonder

καὶ εἶδον τὴν γυναῖκα μεθύουσαν ἐκ τοῦ αἵματος τῶν ἁγίων καὶ ἐκ τοῦ αἵματος τῶν μαρτύρων Ἰησοῦ. Καὶ ἐθαύμασα ἰδὼν αὐτὴν θαῦμα μέγα· (Revelation 17:6)

καὶ εἶπέν μοι ὁ ἄγγελος Διὰ τί ἐθαύμασας; ἐγὼ ἐρῶ σοι τὸ μυστήριον τῆς γυναικὸς καὶ τοῦ θηρίου τοῦ βαστάζοντος αὐτήν, τοῦ ἔχοντος τὰς ἑπτὰ κεφαλὰς καὶ τὰ δέκα κέρατα· (17:7)

τὸ θηρίον ὃ εἶδες ἦν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν, καὶ μέλλει ἀναβαίνειν ἐκ τῆς ἀβύσσου, καὶ εἰς ἀπώλειαν ὑπάγει· καὶ θαυμασθήσονται οἱ κατοικοῦντες ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ὧν οὐ γέγραπται τὸ ὄνομα ἐπὶ τὸ βιβλίον τῆς ζωῆς ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, βλεπόντων τὸ θηρίον ὅτι ἦν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν καὶ πάρεσται. (17:8)

In the aforementioned verses, I want to emphasize the astonishment/wonder aspect. Why did John use this kind of language? Is it typical of GNT writers? These are questions I would like to explore since the verb θαυμάζω has such an interesting history in secular Greek. For a book like Revelation, the verbs "wonder" or "marvel" are appropriate.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Philippians 4:6-7 (NWT)

It is vain to criticize the NWT rendering of Phil 4:6-7: "and the peace of God that excels all thought." The 2013 revision states: "and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding . . ."

While Ralph Earle thinks the "correct translation" of hUPEREXW in 4:7 is "surpasses" (NASB) or "transcends" (NIV), he also writes that the word (according to G. Abbott-Smith's Lexicon) means: "rise above, surpass, excell" (page 848). So, as a literal translation, the NWT seemingly cannot be faulted in this area.

Some critics may also wish to castigate the wording, "thought" for Phil. 4:7. The Greek word used is NOUN. BDAG shows that the lexical form NOUS may refer to a "result of thinking, mind, thought, opinion, decree." But it lists Phil. 4:7 under 1b. (understanding, mind) and makes this comment: "Of the peace of God hH hUPEREXOUSA PANTA N[OUN]. which surpasses all power of thought Phil 4:7."

While the NWT uses "thought" in the translation, it does not seem that we can rightly denigrate NWT here. From past publications of the WTS, the word "thought" for Phil. 4:7 is best understood (in my opinion) as "human understanding." In other words, Jehovah's Witnesses have traditionally stated that the peace of God surpasses all human understanding--especially the comprehension of those who do not have such peace.

Moises Silva provides this example from Chrysostom, who feels that Phil. 4:7 refers to "that which our mind is not able to understand":


The word "thought" can refer to our faculty of thinking or power of reasoning in English. Thus I fail to see the problem some NWT critics have brought up respecting the 1984 rendering of Phil. 4:7.